Heatstress Heatstroke Sunburn Hot Weather Risks
Warm sunny weather opens up so many opportunities for almost unlimited outdoor activities such as mountain biking, sailing, windsurfing, watersports, swimming, hiking, trekking, walking, gardening, or even lazing on the beach to name just a few
I like many others really enjoy the warm weather, however, it comes with a few risks that can be managed so that the effects are minimised. Some of these risks may also be present in our workplace environment if we work outdoors or if we live in a warm climate or visit a warm climate on holiday.
Sun ExposureRisks- Sunburn & Skin Cancer
Over exposure to radiation from the sun can lead to sunburn and long term skin damage that could lead to skin cancer.. So it is important to limit exposure to the sun to prevent these
Sunburn & Skin Cancer Prevention
A country that is known for its sunshine, Australia, has long promoted its Slip, Slop, Slap campaign. Simply it is
Slip on a shirt or top
Slop on Sunscreen
Slap on a hat
The idea is to cover all exposed areas of the body with clothing and any remaining exposed areas of skin should have a sunscreen of suitable factor applied before exposure to the sun.
The selection of a suitable sunscreen and protection factor will depend on the individuals skin type, their skin sensitivity and the expected duration of exposure. If in doubt speak to your chemist or doctor.
Some doctors are now advising that it is ok to allow exposure for up to 15 minutes maximum, dependent on the circumstances, prior to using sunscreen so that the skin can manufacture Vitamin D. If this is done then it is important to ensure the sunscreen is applied promptly.
Sun in the workplace
In the workplace the employer will need to consider sun exposure and sunburn if an employee works outdoors. The Artificial Optical Radiation Regulations do not consider exposure to natural radiation such as sunlight however it is still a workplace hazard and the Employer has a duty to manage and minimise any risks to their employees. A suitable and sufficient risk assessment should be carried out.
Heatwave, Hot Weather Risks
Hot weather and heatwaves can pose life threatening risks to all and particularly to sensitive individuals including the elderly and those with heart conditions. Dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke, which are potentially fatal, are possibilities in this type of weather.
Physical exertion increased the risks, as bodies produced more heat than they can get rid of. When core temperature reaches beyond 40C the cells in the body start to break down, sweating ceases, heart and breathing rates increase and the person may have a fit, hallucinate or lose consciousness.
Those involved in activities should be aware of the signs to look out for in themselves and in their companions.
Stay out of the Midday sun
There are some simple precautions and tips that can be taken to prevent dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Such as
- carry and drink plenty of water
- wear loose, light-coloured clothes
- stay out of the sun as much as possible, especially the midday sun, stay in the shade
- drink cool or cold drinks slowly. This will help lower the body core temperature
- stay in a breeze if possible
- use a fan or air-conditioning if available
- wrap a water saturated cotton/linen handkerchief around head or neck- the evaporation will have a cooling effect
- take cooling showers
- eat small meals- the body generates heat during the digestion process
- ensure adequate salt intake
- If feeling stressed cease activity and rest. If necessary seek medical attention.
Heat in the Workplace
Employers need to consider the effect of heat in the workplace and ensure working conditions do not give rise to unacceptable heat stress. Work outdoors in hot weather can be one concern. Also certain processes in the workplace can give off heat and hot weather can exacerbate it. Even offices can become unbearably hot and these should all be properly considered by a suitable and sufficient risk assessment.
A NASA study, cited by Mintel, suggested that worker productivity falls by 3.6% for every degree over 22C so there are good commercial reasons as well to keep workers comfortable.
All organisations have health and safety hazards and risks which could harm employees or others. All risks cannot be eliminated so it is important that the risks are managed. The preparation of suitable and sufficient risk assessments is fundamental to the process. All employers who require their employees to work in hot environments should ensure that their risk assessments and training are adequate to meet their legal duty of care.
Take care and stay safe
Richard J F Meech
OSHCR, CMIOSH, MIIRSM, NEBOSH Dipl, BEng, CEng, MICE, PEng, MIE(Aust)
MD and founder of Active Safety Associates
PS. If you would like to learn more about risk assessment and risk management or require assistance with managing the health and safety of your company then go to our website on
http://www.activesafetyassociates.co.uk/html/Expert-health-and-safety-advice.html or give us a call on: